Long Way Home (Chapter Eight, page 1 of 9)

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The next morning Alexis dragged herself to Owen's Nativity play along with the whole family. She'd been holed up in her bedroom ever since she returned from the beach the night before. Tilly could tell something was amiss and she tried in vain to piece together the mystery that was her daughter. Even though she was Alexis's mother, Alexis had always seemed slightly alien to her. She knew how to parent Betsy without thinking, despite the fact that Betsy was her first child; she found parenting Alexis far more challenging.

They took golf carts to St. Matthew's Church where Owen attended preschool. Alexis carefully chose a seat at the end of the row by the exit door. She made a habit of always sitting near an exit, whenever the option presented itself.

While they waited patiently for her nephew's shining moment, Betsy did a commendable job of keeping Joey occupied. Alexis realized how difficult basic errands must be for Betsy when Joey was involved. She didn't have attention for anyone or anything else, not that Alexis blamed her. No wonder Owen took such a liking to Alexis, though. She had unfettered time to sit and engage him in conversation and Owen was a kid who clearly liked conversation.

Despite Alexis's attempt to focus on the children on stage, her mind kept drifting to Tyler and her behavior at Lottie's Greenhouse. Gentleman that he was, he'd texted her last night to see if she was okay, but she couldn't bring herself to reply. How could she possibly explain herself without wrenching open the door to a conversation she absolutely did not want to have? She didn't need to relive her heartbreak and Tyler and her family didn't need to know any of it. Soon she'd be gone for parts unknown and they could all resume their lives before she so rudely interrupted them with her torment.

Finally, the Three Wise Men arrived to see the Baby Jesus. Alexis sighed inwardly with relief. Owen wore a white beard far too big and bushy for his small face. He also carried a walking stick much too tall for his four-year-old body. The pairing, however, made for an adorable effect.

"One of the Wise Men was a gimp?" she whispered to her mother.

"He thought his character needed a prop."

"Wouldn't that be frankincense or myrrh?"

The larger boy playing Wise Man One yelled, "We have followed a wandering star that has led us here."

"We bow before our King and offer our finest gifts to the baby Jesus," said Wise Man Two, in a voice that was barely audible. He bowed down and basically pulled the other two Wise Men down with him.

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